ERIO Seminar on Multiple Discrimination

The European Roma Information Office (ERIO) held a seminar on Multiple Discrimination on June 19th-20th in Brussels. This was the first time that a Roma organisation held a seminar focussed specifically on Multiple Discrimination.

The seminar aimed to help ERIO’s network members to deal with this type of discrimination by informing them and developing their skills in combating it. The Seminar provided an overview as well as definitions and examples of the key concepts in Multiple Discrimination. ERIO network members and experts on discrimination coming from different environments discussed challenges, limitation and examples of good practices in the field of Multiple Discrimination. Experts from the European Commission and Equality bodies also presented the EU approach to Multiple Discrimination.


The seminar seen the participation – between others – of Joachim Ott and Alvaro Oliveira of the European Commission, Alekos Tsolakis and Madi Sharma of the European Economic and Social Committee, Anne Gaspard, director of EQUINET, Tansi Hutchinson, Policy officer of ENAR, Jeanette Buirski, of European Dialogue UK, Rachel Buchanan, Policy Officer of AGE, Janina Arsenjeva, EDF Policy Officer, Ronald Lucardie, Cordaid Netherlands, Patricia Prendevil, Director ILGA and Andor Urmos, Ministry of Equal Opportunities of Hungary. Here we provide an extract of their interventions. The full program of the seminar is available on ERIO website


Multiple Discrimination –a key element in a future European

Roma Policy


Mr. Joachim Ott of the European Commission’s DG employment and social affairs opened the seminar by introducing the commission’s view of Multiple Discrimination. People do not fit into boxes, he said, although this is how laws work. Multiple Discrimination in the context of Roma women is already on screen in the framework of gender equality but other grounds for discrimination, such as age or sexuality, were still to-do. Speaking more generally, he explained the significance of the recent Council comment on Roma, the first in 50 years. While far from comprehensive, the statement provides a precedent for further work and was a sign of recognition of a race based problem –a significant acknowledgement for certain countries. Looking forward to the Roma summit in September Mr Ott described 2008 as a transitional year where we were defining which direction to go in. For further information, he invited attendees to read the Commission’s report “Tackling Multiple Discrimination; practices, policy and law”, available through the Commission’s website. Mr Alekos Tsolakis spoke about the need to unite. Discrimination within the community is used to justify discrimination against the community. There is genuine will to integrate Roma but this cannot be achieved if the relationship is kept as one of charity, which the Roma all too often encourage. There needs to be more solidarity between different Roma groupings and Roma need to act as citizens. Stereotypes have to be fought and it is down to the Roma themselves to start this. Roma have to get together and say with one voice what they want otherwise a top down approach will be imposed on them by the majority. Roma have to come with proposals rather than complaints. One of the hardest things to explain to non-Roma is why there is no Roma groups with clear common objectives to propose. Mr. Ott said that Europe cannot tell you how to organise. He agreed that stereotypes are a function of how outside see Roma and how Roma project their image. Joseph Jones stressed that empowerment is all very well but on-Roma NGOs itching up and claiming to represent a community just reinforces stereotypes and they offer jobs that few Roma are qualified enough to take. Ronald Lucardie said to be careful of caretaker industry. Tsolakis agreed that Roma have to push further into this. There is need for positive role model to change attitudes and so stereotypes, but it is difficult when successful Roma invariably leave and turn their back to their community. The example of native Canadians was given: they pulled together over certain common issues, Roma should do the same.


The EU approach towards multiple discrimination


Successful business-woman Mrs Madi Sharma of the European economic and social committee addressed the recent ERIO seminar in Brussels. She spoke of the need to think outside of the box in our approaches to Roma equality. Mrs Sharma also underlined the importance of groups working with rather than for the Roma and equally of the need to loose the ‘blame culture’. On a practical level, she emphasised the importance of the independence and sustainability of organisations. The application process has resulted in grants and other funding being awarded to those who know how to wrote applications rather than those who could make best use of it. On this point, Mr Ronald Lucardie of Cordaid added that donor organisations wuld be better off to consider relationships with ‘clients’ rather han ‘partners’. NGOs in turn should consider what they could do or create rather than what they could do with the money available.

Mr Alvaro Oliveira, lawyer at the European Commission, introduced a more technical legal side of Multiple Discrimination to the seminar. “Prejudice is a big country and there are no borders”, he stated, “lawyers and judges have to fit laws to reality rather than reality to laws.” He discussed different types of Multiple Discrimination. The first is where discrimination arises because of the combination of more than one factor working in parallel. The second type refers to an accumulation of factors which would each lead to discrimination in its own right. Regarding the first of these in particular, Mr Oliveira discussed the difficulty in finding comparators. He suggested that considering the fairness of caution would be better than trying to use a comparator.  


Working group with Ronald Lucardie (Cordaid) and Andor

Urmos (Hungarian Ministry of Equal Opportunities)


Mr Andor Urmos of the Hungarian Ministry of Equal Opportunities gave a presentation on the difficulties faced in implementing equal opportunities policy in his country and also in data collection. The challenge regarding data collection is threefold: organisations have various difficulties handling sensitive data, particularly in Hungary, due to historical factors: Roma’s historical experience has led to a widespread mistrust and unwillingness to disclose information. Finally, only one third of Hungary’s Roma are registered by the most recent census.


The general situation of Roma, gleaned from available information, is that they live primarily in the north-east and the southwest of the country. A map showing the unemployment rates is strikingly similar and furthermore shows the rate in these two regions to be six times that in the central capital, Budapest. School segregation, despite being illegal is still a reality and there are 178 homogeneous Roma schools and around 3000 homogeneous classes. There are also problems in healthcare segregation, where doctors pander to non-Roma patent’s racist requests so as not to rock the boat. Unemployment is particularly pressing because of labour shortages elsewhere in Hungary. The key is seen as a mobility policy to facilitate all aspects of internal migration and commuting. Because of the lack of ethnic data but with correlation between region and circumstance, the Ministry uses geographical targeting. Although not officially used, positive action has seen Roma being installed in Ministries as civil servants and as Roma managers in labour offices and assistants in schools. The equal opportunities funding policy awards grants on condition of equal opportunities creation, for example a grant for new windows may be awarded to a school upon delivery of a desegregation policy. Such projects must first be approved by a Ministry expert and are subject to a follow-up. The link between funding and equal opportunities has been found to help push the idea through local resistance. Mr Ronald Lucardie of Cordaid gave a résumé of the seminar so far, providing a much needed reflection on what had been put forward. The following discussion concluded that while historical and cultural factors held back the pace of change, the situation for the Roma was changing faster now than ever before.



To see the pictures of the Seminar on Flickr go to:[email protected]/sets/72157606004